President Trump’s Cabinet decisions have given Democrats a few bright spots ahead of an otherwise grim 2018 Senate cycle.
Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), both of whom Trump had considered for administration roles, will remain in the upper chamber. Meanwhile, a top prospective GOP challenger to Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has been tapped to serve as Interior secretary.
“Given the number of Democrats up [for reelection in 2018], I don’t expect Democrats to catch a lot of breaks, but they sure did in this particular instance,” said Jim Manley, who served as an aide to former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Heitkamp had been a leading candidate for Agriculture secretary, but she hinted prior to Trump’s announcement that she’d “likely” stay in the Senate. Reid also expressed confidence that she would stay. Trump named former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) to lead the Agriculture Department last week.
Had Heitkamp taken the role, the state’s Republican governor would have been required to hold a special election within 95 days of the vacancy. In a state with a shallow Democratic bench, a GOP candidate would have had a good chance of boosting the party’s ranks in the senate to 53 seats.
Heitkamp has strong roots in North Dakota and served two terms as attorney general in the state. She unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2000 against now-Sen. John Hoeven (R- N.D.).
Manchin also announced that he would remain in the upper chamber after his meeting with Trump last month. The West Virginia Democrat was under consideration for the Energy secretary nod, which ultimately went to former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).